It’s time for a new, multilateral peacekeeping paradigm — Analysis
The 20th International Day of UN Peacekeepers took place on May 29, this year. One might think this would be a major event in countries such as the United States, which has the largest foreign military deployments in the world and the globe’s largest military budget. This was however not true.
China was indeed very pleased with this date. 2,240 military peacekeepers serving on seven UN peacekeeping missions – the largest troop contribution of any permanent UN Security Council member. Speaking prior to the occasion, Jean-Pierre François Renaud Lacroix, the UN under-secretary-general for peace operations, told reporters that the UN reaffirms its “wholehearted support”China’s peacekeeping effort.
What’s important to note about UN peacekeeping operations is that they are carried out in true multilateral fashion. The UN is not an instrument that allows any state to be involved in conflict. At the same time, the UN’s peacekeeping operations are limited – and there are multiple reasons for this.
A map showing UN peacekeeping operations in the world shows clearly that they are not conducted in Afghanistan. That’s because a particularly sensitive point is peacekeeper safety, especially in areas of heavy extremist activity.
A major incident that cast this issue in sharp relief was the death of Sérgio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian UN diplomat who was working as UN high commissioner for human rights and the UN special representative to Iraq at the time of his death in 2003. In a bombing attack in Baghdad, he and his 20 staff members were all killed. The UN was forced to cease operations in Iraq by this tragedy during US-led military intervention. This war was aimed at rebuilding Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow.
The UN left America to fix its problems. This was a fairly understandable decision since other countries shouldn’t have to sacrifice lives to nation-build for Washington. However, this situation also set a precedent whereby Washington could manage its forever wars unchecked – and the consequences of this are clearly seen through the example of Washington’s complete failure to withdraw from Afghanistan responsibly.
It’s also important to note that current so-called ‘peacekeeping operations’ by Washington in places such as Iraq and Syria are outright violations of international law. Although the Iraqi Parliament has repeatedly voted for US troop expulsion, they continue to be in Iraq, though they are still serving so-called non combat roles. In the case of Syria, US troops never had the consent of the UN-recognized government to enter the country – which is a violation of international law… and more than likely also US law.
The main reason UN peacekeeping operations don’t play a leadership role in managing conflict is because they lack the resources to do so. The UN’s latest peacekeeping budget from July 2021 to June 2022 was a mere $6.37 billion, which was even less than the Secretariat requested. Another reason is that conflict resolution in general has been outsourced to UN Security Council resolutions through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
It has had an enormous impact on world stability by outsourcing UN peacekeeping operations, which should have been to NATO. It has actually fundamentally compromised the UN Charter’s values. NATO regularly overstepped its authority, violated international human rights law, and has killed or displaced millions. Examples of this include in the former Yugoslavia, Libya, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The question of UN peacekeeping operations being recognized as primary peacekeeping mechanism is not one that can be solved easily. Properly addressing this would require immense cooperation from virtually all UN member states, including securing more funds and personnel – both of which are unfortunately encumbered by political realities. Meanwhile, the diminishing role of the US – the world’s unipolar power – in global security necessarily means an alternative must be found.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved the creation of a peacekeeping force led by the African Union in Somalia. This will be used to combat the Al-Shabab insurgent group. It has a phase-out period that runs to 2024. It is positive that the UN Security Council voted to create a peacekeeping force in Somalia under the leadership of the African Union, rather than the United States’ unilateral and similar actions.
It remains to be seen, however, how new conflicts that have wider political implications, like the one in Ukraine will play out. This includes whether NATO or any other European-led organisation would lead the charge in an ongoing conflict. In this situation, the United Nations could play an important role to prevent a further escalation.
UN peacekeeping should be a priority in any event. The countries that have deployed conflict-related peacekeeping systems, such as the US or its allies, find them unreliable and sometimes even not welcome. They often ignore the UN principles they were founded upon and must uphold. It is time for a multilateral, new paradigm of peacekeeping.
These opinions, statements and thoughts are the sole opinion of the author. They do not necessarily reflect those made by RT.